by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
At least two lawmakers think so, according to a recent WRAL report:
Two days after prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty against four inmates charged in a failed escape at Pasquotank Correctional Institution that left four prison workers dead, legislative leaders called Friday for executions to resume in North Carolina.
No one has been put to death in North Carolina since 2006 because of a raft of legal challenges, from the since-repealed Racial Justice Act to physicians not wanting to participate in executions to questions over how the death penalty is carried out. Access to drugs used in lethal-injection executions also could become a problem, as it has in other states.
“In light of the prosecutor’s decision to pursue the death penalty, Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein need to make certain, should a jury sentence these men to death, that those sentences are carried out,” House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement.
“For over a decade, death penalty opponents like Roy Cooper and Josh Stein have imposed a de facto moratorium on capital punishment in North Carolina, using every legal trick possible – including inaction – to delay death sentences handed down by juries and deny justice to victims,” Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement. “No matter what they say, Cooper’s and Stein’s indifference and failure to fight the moratorium endangers the lives of prison employees in close proximity to hardened murderers with nothing left to lose, who see no possibility they will face execution for killing again.”
Cooper consistently backed the death penalty during his 16 years as attorney general, and spokeswoman Noelle Talley said he still does.
“Legal challenges halted capital punishment in North Carolina, and only the courts can restart it,” Talley said in an email. “Capital punishment remains the law of the state, and Governor Cooper has a long history of upholding it.”
Likewise, Stein plans to “uphold the law in North Carolina,” spokeswoman Laura Brewer said in an email.
There are 143 inmates on death row, including a Davidson County man who has been there for 31 years.